Gemini Man feels exactly like a ‘90s action flick made with present day technology. This makes sense, as director Ang Lee says it’s a movie they’ve been trying to make for almost 30 years now, but it simply hasn’t been possible before now due to technological constraints. While it’s had the likes of Clint Eastwood and Harrison Ford attached to it throughout its decades in pre-production purgatory, this is the exact type of fun, yet generic movie I’d expect to have seen Jean-Claude Van Damme star in during the twilight of his dominant action movie run in the mid-90s.
Gemini Man stars Will Smith as the DIA’s best assassin Henry Brogan who, after his final mission, is betrayed by the government that trained him. With a target on his back Henry, alongside Danny (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), a burned DIA agent that was initially sent to keep tabs on Brogan but is now seen as a loose end, has to find a way to survive long enough to clear his name. The problem? Well, the man that wants him dead, Clay Verris (Clive Owen), is the head of a secret black ops unit, codenamed Gemini. Verris knows that if Brogan is able to uncover the truth it will mean the end of everything Verris has worked for, so there’s only one thing he can do: send out the best to best the best. The best, in this case, being a younger version of Henry Brogan named Junior.
Now to be fair, Gemini Man does try and do something new with de-aging in that Junior plays a major role in the film and is a lot younger than some of the other recent films with de-aged actors involved in them. The problem is that Junior is often incredibly distracting because even though movies are breaking new barriers with technology with every year that goes by, it’s just not there yet to make a movie like this work in convincing fashion.
The first time we see Junior up-close, it’s during a talk with Verris, who is fixing up some battle wounds after his first run in with Brogan. While we’re supposed to be shocked at just how amazing it is to see Will Smith in his 20s here, instead it’s just this moment where you’re trying to ignore the fact that something is just off. Again, this isn’t a big knock on those who worked on the visual effects for the film, as they definitely push things to the limits at times; however, when Junior is talking it doesn’t look real and that instantly takes the viewer out of the moment. Remember when Warner Bros. had to digitally erase Superman’s goatee in Justice League reshoots? It’s kind of like that, but with a lot more dialogue.
That’s not to say that this is an overly deep movie that you’d otherwise be emotionally invested in, but when the entire basis of the movie is that we’re watching older Will Smith battle it out with his younger self, the younger self shouldn’t be this off-putting CGI character that doesn’t feel real in almost every scene he’s a part of. There are a couple of scenes that Smith nails and the animators do a solid job with, but they’re few and far between, as more often than not it feels like we’re watching a computer game – and it turns out we actually are when it comes to the fight scenes.
They decided to pretty much do the fights between Henry and Junior – and some other action sequences – with computerized versions of Junior and Will, and it shows. The initial confrontation between the two ends in a motorcycle chase, and the way Junior moves never looks real. He looks like he’s made of rubber with how he bends and moves at times, and even with his face covered by sunglasses, the way the bike moves and he moves on it just never seems real during this scene and it suffers because of it. It really sets the bar of what to expect moving forward, and it happens again when the two pair off a little while later, this time fist to fist.
The battle moves at a pace that’s reminiscent of the Bourne series, but instead of being impressive and vicious in its speed and quick cuts, its instead awkward, as it’s clear that these aren’t real actors battling it out in a moment that should be visually impressive and one of the high points in the story. I give them credit for attempting to do something new, or at least push technology as hard as they can, but it just misses more than it hits. This feels like an alpha phase of what the future of movies will be, because I have no doubt that things will continue to get better in this area of the industry.
We’ve seen this technology used on some level with Marvel films, where they’ve de-aged Kurt Russell, Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Douglas, Michelle Pfeiffer, Clark Gregg and others and they’ve done a great job in doing so. They’ve actually done a better job doing it than Gemini Man does here, which really doesn’t help build a case in the defense of this movie since not only has Marvel been doing it for years now, but their movies aren’t even built around that being the vital cog that makes the movie believable.
Despite the visual shortcomings, Smith gives everything to the movie, as any emotion that Junior does evoke is thanks to the fantastic acting ability of Smith. Unfortunately it also doesn’t help that the script is incredibly generic, as if this is a movie they’ve been looking to get made for decades now, you’d think that the script would at least evolve alongside the technology to be something deeper than your run of the mill action movies. If you’re a fan of Smith it’s worth checking out, or if you have a soft spot for ‘90s action movies, then this may scratch that itch, but in the end Gemini Man is an average flick that really could’ve and should’ve been so much more.
The film looks fantastic in 4K, though it’s possible that the film looking as sharp as it does also makes the CGI moments stand out that much more – though not for the right reasons. Other than the CGI, it’s a beautifully shot film, with great locales and just a wonderful look. The sound mix is also really well done, which is why it’s so unfortunate that the story is as simple as it is, as the rest just can’t make up for it.
Alternate Opening – There’s an alternate opening that inter-cuts between the opening used in the film and another assassination taking place on the other side of the world by Junior. It’s a terrible idea that wasn’t needed and was rightfully cut.
The Genesis of Gemini Man – This is a featurette that’s just under 3-minutes in length and sees producer Jerry Bruckheimer talk about the origins of the film coming to be, and Lee and Smith also talk about how long the film has been in production.
Facing Your Younger Self – This featurette is just under six minutes in length and sees the same group talk about Smith’s work filming, as well as what it added to have him play both roles, and why now was the time to make this movie.
The Future Is Now – This is a fairly hefty feature at just over 18-minutes in length and it goes deeper into the process of creating a younger Smith and how they used technology to get both versions of Will in scenes together, as well as their action scenes throughout.
Setting the Action – This feature is just under 16-minutes in length and focuses more on building the set locations, setting up the fights and choreographing them properly so that they could be worked on in post-production and so forth.
Next Level Detail – This featurette is just under 4-minutes in length and focuses on the catacombs used during an important part of the film.
The Vision of Ang Lee – This featurette is just over 6-minutes and sees Lee talk about the various types of filming technologies out there such as 4K and 3D, and how this can be used to better tell a story (even if it didn’t do the trick here.)
Deleted Scenes — There are also a couple of deleted scenes if you want to check them out.
Paramount Pictures Presents Gemini Man. Directed by: Ang Lee. Written by: David Benioff, Billy Ray, Darren Lemke. Starring: Will Smith, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Clive Owen, Benedict Wong. Running time: 117 Minutes. Rating: PG. Released on Blu-ray: Jan. 14, 2020.
Tags: Ang Lee, clive owen, Gemini Man, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Will Smith